07:28am Sunday 31 May 2020

Stem cell scientists help speed up drug discovery

The project called StemBANCC is one of the Innovative Medicines Initiative’s biggest projects with a total budget of €55.6 million. It aims to generate and characterise 1,500 human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines that researchers could use to study diseases and test drugs for safety and efficacy.

It involves 10 pharmaceutical companies and 25 academic institutions and will be initiated and coordinated by healthcare company Roche.

Scientists within the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Newcastle University will be generating the iPS cell lines which researchers involved in the effort will use as tools for drug discovery with the goal of developing human disease models and enhancing drug development.

Leading the contribution at Newcastle University is Dr Lyle Armstrong. He says: “We will be providing a Europe-wide resource for pharmaceutical development.

“The industry grade facilities we have at Newcastle enable us to provide the high-quality pluripotent stem cell lines needed to take this important drug development work forward. This contract has also allowed us to create four new jobs within the Institute.”

“The aim of StemBANCC is to generate and characterize 1,500 high-quality human induced pluripotent stem cell lines derived from 500 patients that can be used by researchers to study a range of diseases, including diabetes and dementia,” Martin Graf, head of the stem cell platform and coordinator of the project at Roche, said in a statement. “The cell lines will help implement patient models that will facilitate the drug development process thanks to the possibility of reproducing the disease mechanism in vitro.”

The project will focus on peripheral nervous system disorders, central nervous system disorders, neurodysfunctional diseases, and diabetes. Researchers also will investigate the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells for identifying drug targets and biomarkers, screening potential drug treatments, and toxicology testing, said Roche.

Among the partners in the initiative are the UK Medical Research Council, Oxford University, University of Edinburgh, INSERM, DeCode Genetics, Pfizer, Abbott, Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Sanofi Aventis and Merck.

The research has received support from the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking under grant agreement n° 115439, resources of which are composed of financial contribution from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) and EFPIA companies’ in kind contribution.



Key Facts:

  • Newcastle University is a Russell Group University
  • We rank in the top 20 of UK universities in The Sunday Times 2013 University Guide
  • Amongst our peers Newcastle is:
    • 10th in the UK for student satisfaction
    • In the UK’s top 12 for research power in Science and Engineering
  • 93% of our students are in a job or further training within six months of graduating (HEFCE 2012)
  • We have a world-class reputation for research excellence and are spearheading three major societal challenges that have a significant impact on global society. These themes are: Ageing and Health, Sustainability, and Social Renewal
  • Newcastle University is the first UK university to establish a fully owned international branch campus for medicine at its NUMed Campus in Malaysia which opened in 2011
  • Our International students put Newcastle University in world’s top 12 (ISB 2011)

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